Sunday, October 24, 2021

Looking ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview [updated]

Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, from now through December. Keep in mind the reality of COVID-19 protocols, expect possible cancellations, and please mask up to keep yourself and others safe.

October 

  • Wednesday, October 27 – Violinist Benjamin Schmid is special guest with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra as the sextet opens its 2021-22 season. Artis Naples’ Daniels Pavilion. 6 and 8:30 p.m.

November

  • Monday, November 8 – Pianist Jim RobertsSaxtet performs in the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s 2021-22 concert series. William H. Wakeman III Theater, Cultural Center of Charlotte County. Port Charlotte. 7 p.m.
  • Monday, November 8 – Trumpeter Dominick Farinaccci performs at Jazz Club of Sarasota’s Monday Night Jazz Cabaret series. John C Court Cabaret at Florida Studio Theatre. Sarasota, 7:30 p.m.
  • Diego Figueiredo
    Sunday, November 14 – Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo performs in Morrie Trumble's Jazz With Morrie concert series. Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice. Venice, 2 p.m.
  • Wednesday to Saturday, November 17-20 – The 16th annual Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival, actually a wine and smooth jazz event, is in two phases this year. The first three days are saxophonist Mindi Abair’s third annual Wine+ Music Festival, with three different lineups in three different locations. The final day is the actual Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Wine & Jazz Festival featuring Eric Darius and Selina Albright and their bands. Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center. Punta Gorda, 6:30 p.m.
  • Friday to Sunday, November 19-21 – Suncoast Jazz Festival. No longer just your grandfather’s trad jazz/Dixieland fest, the dozens of performers include the Brubeck Brothers quartet, Diego Figueiredo, Dick Hyman, Jason Marsalis, and the Eddie Metz-Nicki Parrott-Rossano Sportiello trio, among many others. Sand Key, Clearwater Beach.
  • Monday, November 22 – Miami-based conguero Sammy Figueroa performs at Jazz Club of Sarasota’s Monday Night Jazz Cabaret series. John C Court Cabaret at Florida Studio Theatre. Sarasota, 7:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, November 30 – Saxophonist Dave Koz brings his Christmas tour with three fellow smoothies: guitarist/singer Jonathan Butler, trumpeter Rick Braun and saxophonist Richard Elliot, along with singer Rebecca Jade. Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota, 8 p.m.

December

  • Kenny Washington
    Monday, December 6 - Pianist Liston Gregory III is featured at Jazz Club of Sarasota’s Monday Night Jazz Cabaret series. John C Court Cabaret at Florida Studio Theatre. Sarasota, 7:30 p.m.
  • Monday, December 13 – Saxophonist Greg Abate’s quartet performs in the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s 2021-22 concert series. William H. Wakeman III Theater, Cultural Center of Charlotte County. Port Charlotte. 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, December 15 – Singer Kenny Washington is special guest with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra as part of the sextet’s 2021-22 season. Artis Naples’ Daniels Pavilion. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Monday, December 20 – Guitarist Nate Najar and singer Daniela Soledade perform at Jazz Club of Sarasota’s Monday Night Jazz Cabaret series. John C Court Cabaret at Florida Studio Theatre. Sarasota, 7:30 p.m.

Nate Najar, Daniela Soledade
Several venues offer jazz steadily. They include The Grill at 1951 (formerly J.D.’s Bistro) in Port Charlotte; Amore, Goodfella’s CafĂ© and Patrick’s in Sarasota; Scarpino’s in Bradenton; the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin; The Roadhouse and The Barrel Room at Twisted Vine Bistro in Fort Myers; and Slate’s in Cape Coral. Jazz at Two Friday matinee concerts sponsored by the Jazz Club of Sarasota and Morrie Trumble's Jazz With Morrie series in Venice also keep things swinging for jazz lovers.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

La Lucha and friends shine in CCJS debut

Nineteen months after the pandemic brought the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s 2018-19 concert season to an abrupt and premature end, the nonprofit’s evening concerts resumed on Monday, October 11 with a musical treat from La Lucha.

John O'Leary
The Tampa Bay-area trio, consisting of pianist John O’Leary, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman, brought along two guests: the Barcelona-born singer Ona Kirei and tenor saxophonist Trace Zacur. The latter was a last-minute sub for trumpeter James Suggs who was unable to make the gig.

Alejandro Arenas, Mark Feinman

La Lucha covered the musical gamut, putting it’s own creative spin on time-tested jazz standards, five original compositions and creative covers of more contemporary material from David Bowie, The Beatles and the English pop-rock band Tears for Fears. Half of the program came from La Lucha’s newest CD, Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Arbors Jazz, 2020). 

Trace Zacur

Zacur’s distinctive, edgy sound on tenor sax complemented La Lucha and helped nudge the music in new directions. The band, which excels on in-the-moment creativity, responded in kind. That was first noticeable on their tribute tune “Blues for Houston Person.” Their other tribute tune this evening, Arenas’ “Samba Pra Diego,” was written for Diego Figuereido. It was a fitting inclusion, as the Brazilian guitarist was the last performer in this concert series in early March of 2018. 

La Lucha has a true international flavor with Arenas hailing from Colombia, O’Leary from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and Feinman from the Tampa area. The three first met in a jazz program practice room at the University of South Florida 15 years ago and put their trio together a few months later. Kirei, now based in Tampa, added more international flavor to the evening with her vocal creativity. 

John O'Leary, Ona Kirei

Artistry and emotion were on full display all night long. 

The jazz standards included Antonio Carlos Jobim’s bossa nova classic “Desafinado,” Charles Trenet and Albert Beach’s “I Wish You Love,” “Gone With the Wind” from the musical “Oklahoma,” and “Autumn Nocturne.”

 Favorite moments: 

  • The group’s contemporary spin on the Stevie Wonder Motown hit “For Once in My Life.” 
  • Their covers of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Major Tom would have been pleased with the instrumental exploration of the latter’s haunting, other-worldly melody. 

  • Ona Kirei

    Kirei’s arrangement of the Hoagy Carmichael standard “Skylark” as a samba. It opened with her humming behind O’Leary’s piano introduction. A drum feature for Feinman followed the singer’s celebration of the ballad’s wistful lyrics. 
  • The band transformed The Beatles’ 91-second tease “Golden Slumbers” from the Fab Four’s Abbey Road album into a six-minute instrumental and vocal adventure that was arranged by Arenas. 
  • They closed the evening with a burner, combining “Lullaby of the Leaves” and "Lullaby of Birdland” into a fine medley of material with nothing in common except that one word in their titles. In La Lucha’s hands, the two songs meshed seamlessly. 

The first concert of the 2020-21 season drew a crowd of about 140 to the Cultural Center of Charlotte County’s William H Wakeman III Theater. That was a fine draw, given that it was early in the concert season, and the likelihood that some members are still reticent about indoor events, even if many others are masked.

John O'Leary, Ona Kirei, Trace Zacur, Alejandro Arenas, Mark Feinman